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14 / 05 / 2004

THE VERB 'FANCY': meaning and examples

Good morning,

Today's Daily Vitamin is based on an excellent question that I received from María yesterday. Following is the communication that took place between us:

Good morning Matthew and thank you very much for your Daily Vitamin, which I enjoy every single morning!!! I'm sending you this email to see if you can help me to understand if a sentence I often say is correct or not.

The situation was the following: I was in the office and some English visitors arrived. After a typical welcome conversation I directed them to the meeting room and I offered them a drink. "Would you like something to drink?" I said, and added, "Do you fancy a coke?" The British woman laughed and I couldn't understand why. Was it too colloquial? Too friendly? Should I avoid this expression in the office?

Thanks for your help. (María)

Hello Maria,

We can never be sure why someone laughs when we are speaking our second language; it could be the accent, the intonation, the exact order of the words, which may sound a bit awkward. However, it was probably because the verb fancy is more informal, as you said. Remember, too, that fancy can also mean "to feel sexually attracted to somebody," and in some circles it's almost used exclusively in this way. I think "Would you like something to drink?" sounds very good for a formal situation. Or, "Can I get you something to drink?" If they answer yes, you can then ask, "Would you like a coke, a coffee, water...?" or "What would you like, a coke, a coffee...?"

It sounds like your English is very good, so another option, next time, would be to ask the person, if it seems appropriate, why he/she laughed. You could say, "I'm sorry, did I say something incorrect?" After they indicate why they laughed, you can thank them for helping you to improve your English. Of course, you should only do something like this if you feel comfortable, but usually you can learn a lot just by asking. (Matthew)

Fancy can also be an adjective with several different, but related, meanings. On Monday we'll look at uses of fancy as an adjective.

I hope you have an excellent day.